Movie Review: “Moonrise Kingdom” – Prepare To Be Enchanted

Written by Emily McWilliams June 17, 2012

In a summer full of threequels, remakes, and movies based on board games, Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s script for “Moonrise Kingdom” is a refreshingly original comedy. As with Anderson’s previous films such as “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, this director uses his trademark quirky and subtle humour to create a whimsical tale of first love, dysfunctional families, and boy scouts.  The cast features frequent Anderson collaborators including Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmen, as well as stellar performances from Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman.

Not Your Typical Love Story

The film is set in New England in the late summer of 1965.  At Camp Ivanhoe, Scout Master Ward (Norton) learns that one of his scouts, Sam (Gilman), has run away and taken a number of camping supplies.  As Captain Sharp (Willis) begins his search for the missing boy, the Bishops (Murray and McDormand) realize their daughter Suzy (Hayward) has also run away from home.  It is discovered that the two pre-teens had been pen pals and were corresponding via letter, planning their escapes from their respective troubled homes.  Sam is an orphan and lives in a foster home where he is bullied, while Suzy has anger management issues and acts out at school and at her parents.  While Sam and Suzy navigate the New England wilderness and prepare for their life together, Scout Master Ward and Captain Sharp are attempting to organize a search and rescue mission with the rest of the boy scout troop.  The results of the mission are unexpected and hilarious as the boy scouts try to help Sam and Suzy escape to freedom and the threat of Social Services (Swinton).

Wes Anderson At His Finest

“Moonrise Kingdom” is a visual masterpiece on many levels.  The costumes and sets evoke a sense of nostalgia and contribute to the movie’s fantasy elements.  Anderson and cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman also incorporate some masterful and innovative camera work, particularly in the film’s opening scene as the camera moves seamlessly through the Bishop’s house and introduces the family.  It is unique touches like this that really set Anderson apart as a filmmaker and give this film a unique flair.  When combined with the intelligent script and nearly perfect performances from the ensemble cast, “Moonrise Kingdom” proves to be the unexpected comedy of the summer.

An Understated Comedy and One of the Year’s Best Films

Granted, Wes Anderson movies are not for everyone.  I know many people who do not enjoy his style of humour and find his plots to be slow and awkward.  “Moonrise Kingdom” does contain many of the elements that define a Wes Anderson film, but the film’s ending is action packed while remaining heartwarming.  If you’re looking for something other than the typical summer blockbuster fare, I highly recommend giving “Moonrise Kingdom” a chance.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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